Thank You, Piqua!

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On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, Piqua voters gave resounding 60% approval for an increase of 0.25% in the Public Safety Levy.  The increased levy funding will enable the city to maintain the existing six (6) Firefighter/Paramedics currently funded under the federal SAFER Grant and add an additional five (5) Police Officers.

The approval by Piqua citizens ensures that we will be able to continue providing outstanding service and response for firefighting and emergency medical services and begin to tackle the significant crime and drug use within the community.  This vote of confidence begins us on a very positive track for the future.

Thank you for trusting in your Police and Fire Departments and city government to make good use of your hard earned dollars.  We will make every effort to make you proud with positive results.

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Piqua – Striving for Quality of Place

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There are numerous critical factors that help make a community a “Quality of Place.” Quality of Place is important because it draws people and business to it.  Quality of Place can be summed up by an interrelated set of factors.  These factors and the relationship between them determine the Quality of Place in which we live, work, and play.

Some of these interrelated factors include things such as location, dependable infrastructure, natural and man-made features, good education system, parks, trails, recreation opportunities, social and cultural outlets, and diversity of housing. It should be noted that Quality of Place does not happen automatically…it’s something you have to work at and create.

One of the most critical factors is the safety of the community. Residents, visitors, and businesses need to feel that they are well protected from crime and provided excellent fire and emergency medical services when needed.  This is the purpose and reason why the Piqua Public Safety Income Tax Levy on November 4, 2014 is so important.  We must create the Quality of Place that will attract new professionals and skilled residents, and at the same time, enhance our ability to convince new businesses and visitors to our community.

In 2013, the Piqua Fire Department successfully secured and implemented a SAFER (Staffing for adequate Fire & Emergency Response) Grant to hire six (6) additional Firefighter/Paramedics for a two (2) year period. During the last two years, we have witnessed the success of having the additional six professional staff.  Of all fire calls, the recommended minimum response staffing was available 98% of the time versus the 60% before the SAFER grant.  This can mean the difference in life and death in fire incidents.  The additional staff has also enabled the department to respond immediately to multiple calls rather than wait for mutual aid assistance from other Fire Departments.

Unfortunately, Piqua has one of the highest property crime rates in the nation. During our annual performance measurement efforts, it was validated that Piqua has three times the property crimes of other cities our size across the nation.  In addition, Piqua has the 7th highest rape rate in Ohio.  These are both startling and unsettling facts that must be dealt with and the best solution is to put “boots on the ground” in order to have Police Officers in neighborhoods and on the streets.

The proposed 0.025% increase in the income tax will generate approximately $1 million in revenue that can only be used for public safety (Police and Fire Departments).  The majority of the additional funding will be used to permanently maintain the existing six (6) Firefighter/Paramedics currently funded through the SAFER grant and hire five (5) additional Police Officers.  The income tax only applies to “earned income” and is not collected on social security, pensions, unemployment benefits, military pay, public assistance, or alimony received.

We must strengthen the Police and Fire Departments to provide the best public safety services in order to become that “Quality Place.” No other issue is more important to the future of our city.

I hope you will join the efforts of many and strive to create Piqua as the “Quality of Place” we all desire.

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PPP Holds Public Safety Levy Education Forum

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The following article was written by Sam Wildow of the Piqua Daily Call regarding the upcoming Public Safety Income Tax Levy.

PIQUA — Positively Promoting Piqua (PPP) held a public forum Wednesday evening to discuss Piqua’s public safety income tax levy that will add additional funds to the Piqua police and fire departments. The levy will be on the ballot Nov. 4. The importance of the forum was “to educate people and give them the right information,” said the Rev. Kazy Hinds, public chairperson for the campaign committee.

The public safety committee is looking to help city officials pass a 0.25 percent increase in order to keep six firefighters on staff as well as add five police officers to the Piqua Police Department. If passed, the city income tax will increase from 1.75 percent to 2 percent, however, the new tax revenue gained will be used solely for the Piqua Police and Fire Departments according to Hinds. No one else will be able to access this revenue. The campaign’s presentation cited the 2012 Census, stating that the average household in Piqua earning $39,000 per year will have to pay an extra $0.27 cents a day. They also used the example of a citizen making $30,000 per year, saying that individual “will pay an additional $75 per year or $1.44 per week.”

The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant is what has been funding the positions of these six firefighters, but according to Fire Chief Mike Rindler, the SAFER Grant is not renewable as it is meant as a temporary solution versus a stable means of paying for these firefighters.

“When you call 9-1-1, you want us to help,” Rindler said at the meeting. “We don’t want to tell you, ‘sorry, we don’t do that.’” Rindler pointed out that the fire department does more than respond to fires and emergency medical situations as they also are able to handle threats of weapons of mass destruction, safety hazards that require a HAZMAT team, Interstate wreckage and spillage, confined space rescue where individuals may be trapped, high angle rope rescue, situations requiring a dive team or a river rescue, and so on according to Rindler.

According to the campaign’s presentation, “staffing is tied for lowest in the nation when compared to similar sized cities.” Piqua is also “nationally 8th highest in emergency calls and 10th lowest in spending,” according to Rindler.

“We could have as low as six people on duty,” Rindler said. “The passage of this (levy) allows us to have two more people, and that’s a big deal.” According to Rindler, if the fire department responds with less than four people to a fire, they are not able to go into the building to fight the fire. According to Rindler, there were “three incidents where no units were available” to respond before Piqua received money from the SAFER grant.

This levy will also add five additional police officers to police department. Police Chief Bruce Jamison pointed out that the minimum amount of officers that they may have on duty can be as low as three or four officers depending on the time of day. According to Jamison, “Piqua has the smallest number of officers in northern Miami Valley,” but “Piqua’s overall crime rate is the third-highest among cities our size.” Jamison has found that “FBI staff studies routinely find that Piqua should be staffed with 15 to 19 more officers.”

“It’s important to their (citizen’s) quality of life,” Jamison said. The levy campaign’s presentation stressed that the levy is about the safety and well-being of Piqua’s citizens, giving Piqua “a difference Piqua deserves” according to Jamison. These additional five officers will “add 29 hours of police protection every day,” Jamison said.

Jamison discussed the need for the added police protection, citing that Piqua is “7th in the state for rapes” as well as Piqua’s high property crime rate. “People have accepted that,” Jamison said, “and I don’t think they need to.” Detective Jeremy Webber discussed the growing heroin problem, linking this drug problem as the issue behind the high property crime rate. According to Webber, this problem affects everyone, whether it is through one’s property becoming stolen or damaged or through one’s children experimenting with drugs as individuals may first try opiates at age 12 and become addicted between the ages of 15 and 17.

The way to combat this issue is with “boots on the ground,” City Manager Gary Huff said. According to Huff, the city of Piqua lowering its crime rate and recommitting itself to public safety are actions Piqua needs to take “in order to move the city to a certain level of being able to have a reputation to attract businesses, to attract new investments.”

This issue will be on the November 4, 2014 ballot for Piqua residents to decide.

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Complete Streets Design Provides Many Economic Development Benefits

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Earlier this year, the City of Piqua was recognized for having one of the Top Ten Complete Streets Policies adopted in the entire nation in 2013.  Complete Street design provides many benefits to the local economy which are highlighted in this Blog.  It is imperative that the City of Piqua utilize innovative approaches to attract new business and help existing business expansion, encourage young professionals to locate here to fill needed job openings, and promote visitors to experience the community.  All these reasons are important economic development opportunities.

The following information is provided by the National Complete Streets Coalition.

Complete Streets stimulate the local economy

Making it easier for residents and visitors to take transit, walk, or bike to their destinations can help stimulate the local economy. People living in Dallas, TX save an average of $9,026 annually by switching from driving to taking transit, and those in Cleveland, OH save an average of $9,576. The total savings from biking, walking, or taking transit instead of driving can really add up across a city, ranging from $2.3 billion in Chicago to an astounding $19 billion a year in New York City . This “green dividend” means that residents can spend that money in other ways, such as housing, restaurants, and entertainment, that keep money circulating in the local economy. And it’s not just big cities that see these impacts: in Wisconsin, economic benefits from public transit alone are $730 million.

Providing the infrastructure for people to get to work by walking, biking or taking transit can provide a boost to the economy in other ways, too: traffic congestion costs businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area over $2 billion a year due to time employees spent stuck in traffic, and the total cost of congestion in the Los Angeles region tops $1.1 billion each year. A Complete Streets approach has the power to recapture some of that cost.

Local businesses see many benefits in improving access to people traveling by foot or bicycle. When a bike lane was added along Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission district, nearby businesses saw sales increase by 60 percent, which merchants attributed to increased pedestrian and bicycle activity. Similarly, a study in Toronto showed that nearly three-quarters of merchants along Bloor Street expected that better bicycle and pedestrian facilities would improve business.

Implementing Complete Streets policies can have economic benefits even before the projects are finished. Road improvement projects that include bike and pedestrian facilities create more jobs during construction than those that are only designed for vehicles, per dollar spent. Adding or improving transit facilities is good for jobs, too. During the recent economic downturn, each stimulus dollar invested in a public transportation project created twice as many jobs as one spent on a highway project.

Better bicycle infrastructure can create jobs directly, too. Cycling adds over $556 million and 3,400 jobs to Wisconsin’s economy through increased tourism, bicycle manufacturing, sales and repair, bike tours, and other activities. Similarly, there’s a $90 million benefit to the city’s economy from Portland, Oregon’s bicycling industry , and the state of Colorado reaps a benefit of over $1 billion each year from bicycle manufacturing, retail, and tourism.

Complete Streets spur private investment

The investment that communities make in implementing Complete Streets policies can stimulate far greater private investment, especially in retail districts and downtowns where pedestrians and cyclists feel unwelcome. In Washington, D.C., design improvements along a three-quarter mile corridor in Barracks Row, including new patterned sidewalks and traffic signals, helped attract 44 new businesses and 200 new jobs, along with increases in sales and foot traffic. Lancaster, California added pedestrian safety features as part of a downtown revitalization effort, including a pedestrian-only plaza, wider sidewalks, landscaping and traffic calming. The project spurred $125 million in private investment, a 26% increase in sales tax revenue, and 800 new jobs, after a public investment of $10.6 million. And in Mountain View, California, the addition of space for sidewalk cafes and a redesign of the street for pedestrians were followed by private investment of $150 million, including residential, retail and offices, resulting in a vibrant downtown destination.

Complete Streets raise property values

Complete Streets policies lead to networks of streets that are safe and accessible for people on foot or riding bikes, which in turn raises property values. In a survey of 15 real estate markets from Jacksonville, Florida to Stockton, California a one-point increase in the walkability of a neighborhood as measured by WalkScore.com increased home values by $700 to $3,000. For neighborhoods in the Washington, D.C. region, becoming one step more walkable on a five-point scale can add $9 per square foot to retail rents and nearly $82 per square foot to home values. This increase is amplified when walkable neighborhoods are near each other , demonstrating the value of networks of Complete Streets connected throughout a community.

The preference for walkable neighborhoods is likely to increase in coming decades, too, as today’s young college graduates flock to downtowns and close-in suburbs. The population of college-educated 25 to 34 year olds in these walkable neighborhoods has increased by 26% in the last decade , creating a workforce that can further add to economic growth in these communities.

It’s not just sidewalks: bike paths add value to neighboring properties as well. One North Carolina neighborhood saw property values rise $5,000 due to a nearby bikeway, while research showed that bike paths in Delaware could be expected to add $8,800 to neighboring home values. Even design elements like street trees can raise property values. Having trees on the street in front of homes in Portland, Oregon added more than $7,000 to selling prices.

Even with higher housing prices, walkable neighborhoods are good for working families. People living in communities that give them the option to walk, bike or take transit to their destinations often pay less in total housing and transportation costs than those who live in areas with lower housing prices that are more auto-dependent. When coupled with programs to maintain access to affordable housing, families of all incomes can realize the economic benefits of Complete Streets.

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Piqua Firefighter Eric Wood

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Here’s a recent article written by Mike Ullery of the Piqua Daily Call.  This article reflects the quality of personnel that work for the City of Piqua.

PIQUA — Piqua firefighter Eric Wood was inducted into the Ohio Firefighters Hall of Fame at the State Fire Academy in Columbus on Wednesday.

Wood’s induction follows his earning the Ohio Medal of Valor for his actions during a structure fire in January 2011. According to Piqua Fire Department accounts, during the house fire, Wood and fellow firefighter Jim Drieling “were inside a residential structure fire, charged with heavy smoke, on a report of a basement fire. Drieling fell through an open hatch door in the floor of a kitchen, hanging above the fire. Wood called on the radio for a ‘Mayday’ but there was an issue with his radio and other firefighters did not receive the ‘Mayday’ call. Wood single-handedly rescued his fellow firefighter and extinguished the basement fire.”

The Medal of Valor is given to firefighters who “place themselves, at great personal risk and saving another life during an extreme emergency, above and beyond the call of duty.”

Wood is the sixth Piqua firefighter to earn the Medal of Valor. The others are Brent Pohlschnider, Bob Bloom, John Stevens, all of whom are still serving, along with retired firefighters Bruce Wilcox and Steve Hamant.

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ICMA Code of Ethics

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I will be traveling to the ICMA Annual Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina later this week and this reminds me of a very important aspect of my job.  As a member of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), I am required to adhere to a strict Code of Ethics, originally adopted in 1924 and periodically amended, that serves as the foundation of the local government management profession and standard of excellence.  Members of ICMA pledge to uphold these principles in their personal conduct and decision-making for the communities they serve.

I am very proud to be part of a professional organization that strongly promotes ethical behavior, conduct, and governance.  Below are the tenets that guide my everyday approach to serving as the City Manager of Piqua.

The mission of ICMA is to create excellence in local governance by developing and fostering professional local government management worldwide. To further this mission, certain principles, as enforced by the Rules of Procedure, shall govern the conduct of every member of ICMA, who shall:

Tenet 1

Be dedicated to the concepts of effective and democratic local government by responsible elected officials and believe that professional general management is essential to the achievement of this objective.

Tenet 2

Affirm the dignity and worth of the services rendered by government and maintain a constructive, creative, and practical attitude toward local government affairs and a deep sense of social responsibility as a trusted public servant

Tenet 3

Be dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and personal relationships in order that the member may merit the respect and confidence of the elected officials, of other officials and employees, and of the public.

Tenet 4

Recognize that the chief function of local government at all times is to serve the best interests of all people.

Tenet 5

Submit policy proposals to elected officials; provide them with facts and advice on matters of policy as a basis for making decisions and setting community goals; and uphold and implement local government policies adopted by elected officials.

Tenet 6

Recognize that elected representatives of the people are entitled to the credit for the establishment of local government policies; responsibility for policy execution rests with the members.

Tenet 7

Refrain from all political activities which undermine public confidence in professional administrators.  Refrain from participation in the election of the members of the employing legislative body.

Tenet 8

Make it a duty continually to improve the member’s professional ability and to develop the competence of associates in the use of management techniques.

Tenet 9

Keep the community informed on local government affairs; encourage communication between the citizens and all local government officers; emphasize friendly and courteous service to the public; and seek to improve the quality and image of public service.

Tenet 10

Resist any encroachment on professional responsibilities, believing the member should be free to carry out official policies without interference, and handle each problem without discrimination on the basis of principle and justice.

Tenet 11

Handle all matters of personnel on the basis of merit so that fairness and impartiality govern a member’s decisions, pertaining to appointments, pay adjustments, promotions, and discipline.

Tenet 12

Seek no favor; believe that personal aggrandizement or profit secured by confidential information or by misuse of public time is dishonest.

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New South Main Street Lane Configuration

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You may have noticed the new lane configuration on South Main Street that has recently been installed.  The new configuration provides for a center turn lane and bike lanes.  These lane alignments are recommended by the Department of Transportation and have proven to reduce accidents and provide a much safer transportation system.  This configuration is sometimes referred to as a “Road Diet”.

The center lane allows for vehicles to make turns into businesses without being in a travel lane.  Especially on a foggy morning, it reduces the possibility of coming upon a stopped vehicle trying to turn.  The additional bike lanes allow for workers who bike to work to travel more safely in the designated lanes.  Businesses in this area requested these types of changes to help improve the safety of drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.

I understand that change is sometimes difficult for a community, but these types of changes are needed, not only for safety, but to attract young professionals, skilled workers, new business, and visitors to Piqua.

To help you understand the benefits of the changes being made, I’m posting some of the misconceptions of the impacts and debunking the myths.

“The roadway was designed as four lanes due to the traffic volumes and reducing the thru lanes from two to one in each direction will increase congestion.”

  • Traffic engineering studies have demonstrated that on roads used by fewer than 20,000 vehicles per day, road diets have a minimal or positive impact on vehicle capacity.  The traffic volume on Co Rd 25-A south of Piqua is 6,200 vehicles per day.

“The new striping will increase crashes.”

  • Road diets decrease by 70 percent the frequency of people driving more than 5 mph over the speed limit and actually reduce rear-end collisions and sideswipe crashes by slowing vehicle speeds.  Research indicates the implementation of a road diet will result in a 19 to 47 percent reduction in crashes.

“Road diets are bad for business.”

  • Road diets result in slower speeds, better sight lines and are safer for both through vehicles and local traffic, and center-turn lanes provide motorists with an easier and safer way to make right and left turns, including for entering and exiting driveways.

“Road diets slow down emergency responders.”

  • A road diet accommodates emergency vehicles without increasing response times.  Drivers can pull into bicycle lanes to move out of the way, and a center turn lane can be used by responders needing to pass other vehicles.

“People don’t like road diets.”

  • With thousands of road diets completed nationwide, there are few reports of any being reversed.  On the contrary, road diets are proving to be effective, safe and popular.  Many communities are reporting that many residents often initially oppose road diets; however, after completion they find that nearly 95 percent of residents are supportive of the changes.

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